London drizzled as we huddled under Marble Arch. A camera crew approached us and I was shuffled to the front:
Reporter: ‘Do you have a solution to the war in Syria?’
Me: ‘Um, no.’
Reporter: ‘What do you expect this protest to achieve?’
Me (willing my coffee to take effect): ‘I guess I want to show solidarity with the people of Aleppo.’
As someone who does interview prep for a living, I gave myself a 2 out of 10. All week horrific footage from Aleppo had covered our screens, I kicked myself for having nothing more profound or concrete to say. But perhaps there was nothing more profound or concrete to say?
The day before the protest Save the Children reported on the recent use of bunker-busting earthquake bombs:
‘They have a devastating impact on civilian areas, killing and maiming people who thought they would be safer in a basement, and their use in Aleppo constitutes a potential war crime. More than 300 children have been killed or injured in Eastern Aleppo in the past five days.’ This was why we had come.
An hour later the protest moved off. I marched alongside Hassan. ‘I wake up with a jolt four or five times a night’, he told me. ‘I cannot eat or sleep. All I do is pray for my family in Raqqa.’
Our numbers swelled and, as the sun came out, we raised our placards high. ‘We only want democracy. We only have hypocrisy!’ went the chant as we moved down Park Lane towards Downing Street. As we reached our destination a group of young Syrians with flags draped over their shoulders told us animatedly that they had come all the way from Leeds for the march.
Afterwards we asked Hassan how he felt about the protest. He thought for a moment before answering: ‘Today I am happy because somebody cares about my country.’ Maybe others could tell you how to stop the bloodshed, but we all can make small gestures count. For a moment Hassan was happy, and that was enough for me.
– Hassan is not his real name